One of the biggest vision awareness events in the calendar is taking place worldwide this week, aiming to encourage people to look after their eyesight in order to preserve it. World Sight Day falls on October 13th of this year and is traditionally an annual day of awareness where global attention is focused on blindness, visual impairment and the rehabilitation of the visually impaired. The day is in support of the global initiative ‘Vision 2020 The right to sight’ in their effort to prevent blindness and was created by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB).
The WHO estimates that there are over 285 million people in the world who are visually impaired and of that 39 million of them are blind. It is incredible to think that 80% of world’s blindness is avoidable, meaning it can be either treated or prevented by known cost effective means. However almost 90% of those who are blind live in low income countries where there are insufficient resources and skilled clinicians to address this problem. Although there are many causes of blindness, Vision 2020 seeks to highlight the main causes of avoidable blindness in order to have the greatest possible effect on vision loss worldwide.
Almost half of all cases of blindness, around 18 million, are as a result of cataracts. The majority of these cases are age related and cannot be prevented however many can be treated through surgery and intraocular lenses (IOL), now a very common procedure. Other causes of vision loss which Vision 2020 identifies are macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma. The WHO predicts a considerable increase in these eye problems through changes in our lifestyle’s and our ageing population. Although most of us are in the lucky situation where we would be able to successfully treat or manage these if we were to develop any of these conditions, we shouldn’t become complacent about the health of our eyes. The WHO states around 153 million people worldwide are visually impaired in some form because of uncorrected refractive errors (near and far sightedness or astigmatism) as a result of failing to notice or ignoring changes in our eyes.
Many people do not realise that eye examinations not only check the health of your eyes but can also identify the early signs of eye disease and conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure. Optical Express provide free eye examinations in Scotland and free with a purchase in the rest of the UK and Ireland so there is no reason not to come for a regular check, it may save your eyesight!
For those who suffer from common eye problems such as near and far sightedness, there are solutions to correct or manage these. Glasses are the most common means of helping the visually impaired and there are lenses available to suit every prescription such as single vision, bifocal or varifocal. With a vast range of stylish designer frames to choose from, glasses are now worn as fashion statements rather than seen as a fashion faux pas. However for those who don’t like wearing glasses, they must not ignore their vision problems and go without them as straining their eyes will only make their vision worse. As an alternative to glasses, contact lenses are discreet, easy to use and available as monthly or daily disposables lenses. Or for people who find wearing contacts or glasses an inconvenience, alternative treatments are available. Laser eye surgery or intraocular lenses are long term solutions and may be the answer for those who want great vision without any hassle.
There are many international days which pass us without any recognition or action taken, however we must not let this be one of them. The main message we can take from World Sight Day 2011 is that we must appreciate and look after our eyesight by attending regular eye examinations and encourage others to do the same. By doing this we are following Vision 2020′s global plan to eliminate preventable vision impairment and blindness. If the world opens its eyes to this problem and supports this initiative it may be possible.